Tomorrow’s Promise

Part 3

by Radclyffe

Please see part 1 for all disclaimers.


Chapter Five

Tanner sat on the beach until the sun came up. She was still thinking about Adrienne. Every time she thought about those soft lips against hers, the heat of Adrienne's mouth, the soft brush of skin against her palm, she felt another wave of desire. It was so strange! She didn’t understand why this woman, whom she hardly knew, could have such a powerful effect on her. But the sensation was undeniable.

She wasn't sure what to do. She was used to being pursued. Most often it was her name, or her status, or her reputation that attracted the women. She usually took the easy way out, giving in to someone else's attraction, only to withdraw quickly when the situation became too intense. This time, she didn’t want to pull away.

Her first instinct was to go to Adrienne and insist that they talk. She wasn't a patient person, by nature or by breeding. She was used to having what she wanted. And though she knew it wasn't wise to confront Adrienne, she almost didn't care. She wanted to unlock the secret that held Adrienne captive.

Tanner stood up in frustration and walked slowly up the path that led to her bungalow. When she entered she found Jean still asleep on the unmade bed. She shook her gently, calling, "Jean! It’s time for you to get up. Jerry will wonder where you are!"

The blond rolled over lazily and smiled, still drowsy from sleep.

"No he won’t. I’m sure he already knows where I am."

Tanner frowned in exasperation. "Great! Just what I need—an irate husband crashing in here at six o’clock in the morning!"

Jean reached up for her with a grin. "He wouldn’t do that. He knows I’ll come home, as long as he doesn’t interfere with my little escapades."

Tanner stepped back, out of Jean’s reach. "Wonderful. I’m glad you two have such an understanding relationship. But I’d still rather not end up in the middle of it." She gathered up Jean’s dress and handed it to her. "Come on. Get dressed."

Jean stretched leisurely, stood, and pulled the dress on over her head. She looked at Tanner with inquisitive eyes. "Where have you been?"

Tanner looked away. "Out for a walk."

"Hmm. With that visitor from down the road?"

Tanner flushed and looked at her angrily. "What is that supposed to mean?"

Jean shrugged and picked up her handbag. "Nothing. I just noticed that you spent a lot of time watching her last night. And, if you ask me, my dear, you should forget her. She looks like a cold bitch to me."

"Well, I didn’t ask you!" Tanner responded shortly. "Now, would you mind leaving before the entire household sees you?"

Jean kissed her sensuously on the lips as she made her way toward the door. "Certainly. But you’re a fool if you think that anyone at that party doesn’t know I spent the night with you."

Tanner stared after her as she slipped out the door. She pulled off her shirt and threw herself down in disgust on the bed. Her last thought before she finally slept was of Adrienne’s face as she turned to run from her on the beach.


Adrienne had not spoken to anyone in the two weeks since Constance Whitley’s barbecue. She had even avoided the general store until necessity forced her to make the trip. She still walked on the beach each day, but she never walked north. She didn’t want to be reminded of the night on the shore with Tanner. She was angry with herself—angry for dropping her guard, angry for letting anyone breach the protective barrier she had so carefully erected around her feelings. How easily Tanner had penetrated her defenses! How easily she had come, with her dark eyes and wistful words, right into the center of Adrienne’s consciousness.

Now Adrienne found she could not get Tanner out of her thoughts! And she did not want to think! She did not want to think about San Diego, or Alicia, or her former career, or any of it! And she especially did not want to think about Tanner. Because every time she did, she was reminded of how gentle Tanner’s lips felt against her mouth, and of how sweet her touch had been on her face. Tanner’s sexual energy was compelling, and Adrienne knew desire again. A desire as unbidden as the desire to breathe. There was no good reason for it! It was purely physical. And that was what frightened her—she had not felt anything like it for so long that it was hard for her to accept. It there was anything she had been sure of, it was that such feelings had been obliterated by the trials of the last year. Now she wasn’t certain of anything—except that she had to avoid seeing Tanner again at all cost.

She read, she ate when she could remember to, and she tried not to think. She found that the tranquility of her solitary existence had disappeared. Her body longed for activity, and she grew intolerably restless. She felt that she would go mad if she didn’t find something with which to occupy herself. That was when she remembered her conversation weeks previously with Mr. Simms.

Early one morning, she packed some gear and a lunch and set out for the marina. She parked her car in the shade and went into the general store. She found the friendly proprietor unpacking cans at the far end of an aisle.

"Good morning!" she called. "I want to rent a sailboat!"

Mr. Simms looked up and smiled, dusting his hands off on his faded khaki pants. "That’s simple enough. Just walk on down to the office and talk to Josh Thomas. He’ll fix you up." He pointed through the windows to the gray-shingled, all-purpose boat repair and rental building at the end of a wooden pier with sloops moored on either side.

Adrienne smiled her thanks and left. As she walked down the pier, she smiled, feeling almost happy for the first time in weeks. She was looking forward to being out on the ocean again. Her smile disappeared when she saw Tanner’s silver sports coupe parked on the pier close to the water’s edge. She almost left, and then shook her head angrily. "No!" she whispered to herself. "I can't keep running from her. Seeing her won't be a problem. I hope." She pressed resolutely on, finding the manager of the marina overhauling one of the sloops hoisted up in dry dock.

Josh Thomas was a weather beaten, bearded man of indeterminate age. He had the look of a native about him, and when he called down a greeting to her, Adrienne recognized the distinctive New England accent. She introduced herself and told him what she wanted. He turned out to be a charming man who took her enthusiastically down to the dock and helped her choose a craft. He described to her in loving detail the particulars of the boat she wanted.

"That’s it, then, Ms. Pierce," he said finally. "She’s all yours. Just be sure to keep an ear on the weather bulletins and get her in by nightfall. Summer squalls blow up quickly in these waters, and this harbor is difficult to navigate in the dark."

"I will," Adrienne replied with a smile. As she turned to climb aboard, she added, "By the way—isn’t that Tanner Whitley’s car over there?"

Josh looked in the direction she had pointed and nodded. "Sure is." He laughed and shook his head. "She’s been out before sun-up every day for the last two weeks. If I didn’t know better, I’d think she was out poaching lobster pots!" He continued to chuckle as he walked away, leaving Adrienne alone with her craft.

Adrienne sailed slowly for the first hour, getting used to the pull of the sails and the unfamiliar waters. Finally, as the wind peaked in the early afternoon, she let her sails out and made a fast run with the wind, exhilarating in the freedom and power of the boat under her. Physically she felt wonderful, and the boat was so demanding under full sail that she didn’t have time to think about the disturbing events of the last few weeks. She anchored in a quiet cove on the lee side of one of the small islands that dotted the coast. She was starved and looking forward to the bottle of wine she had brought along as a treat. She stretched out on the deck after her meal, basking in the sun. She relaxed and allowed her mind to wander, free from the questions that plagued her most of her waking hours. She must have napped, for the next thing she knew, the wind had grown cool, and the boat rocked heavily on the tide. She opened her eyes and was surprised to find the sun already low on the horizon. She hastily gathered the remains of her meal and got under sail, anxious to make port before darkness. Even with a good wind it was almost dark when she sailed into Whitley Harbor. Josh Thomas ran to meet her on the pier and caught the towline she tossed to him.

"I was getting a little worried there," he called. "It’s almost dark!"

"I know," Adrienne replied as she jumped down onto the dock. "I must have fallen asleep in the sun. I’m sorry." She smiled at him, feeling exhilarated. "It was wonderful out there!"

"Can’t argue with that," he responded as he walked with her up toward the marina.

Adrienne waved good-bye cheerfully and started away. She saw the silver Jaguar parked where it had been that morning, and she turned suddenly, calling, "Oh, Mr. Thomas, is Ms. Whitley back in yet?" She was surprised by the frown that darkened his pleasant features as he responded.

"No, and there’s no telling when she will be. She’s a damn fool to think she can run in these waters at night. There’s too much of her father in her. She thinks the rules don’t apply to her. If she weren’t such a good sailor, we’d probably have found her washed up ashore somewhere too!" He saw Adrienne pale slightly and hurried on. "I’m sorry, ma’am. I think the world of Tanner, just like I did her father. She just makes me mad sometimes. I’ll try to raise her on the short wave if you like."

Adrienne shook her head. "No, that's not necessary – I'm sure she knows what she's doing." She hurried away. She doesn't need to know I was asking about her. I don't even know why I care.

Adrienne's time on the water had awakened some long-dormant joy, reviving her. As she drove home, she wondered about Tanner, about what solace she might be finding in her solitary forays onto the sea. That Tanner was running from something, too, Adrienne had no doubt. She could hear it in Tanner's voice, and see it in the depths of her dark soulful eyes. Despite her lingering thoughts of Tanner, and the uneasy memories of their kiss, that night she had the first full night’s sleep in days.

It became the new habit of her days to arrive early each morning with her gear and her lunch and to spend the entire day on the boat. She swam, she read, she sailed better than she ever had. She often saw Tanner's distinctive sports coupe parked on the pier, but she never saw Tanner. She didn’t mind—she had no desire to see her. With her days so full, she was able to ignore the lingering images of the two of them on the moonlit beach. When she would awaken from a dream where Tanner's touch still tingled on her skin, she quickly dismissed it as a natural response to her long weeks of solitude. She had been tired and discouraged, and Tanner had been there. It was nothing more than that. If some line from a song on the radio brought Tanner's husky voice to mind, she assured herself it was just a passing fancy.

May turned into June, the weather grew warmer, and as the days lengthened, Adrienne's strength returned. She felt fit and whole and nearly content. Life was as good as she dared hope it could be.

Chapter Six

Adrienne made port one gray afternoon just ahead of a bank of storm clouds that were swiftly approaching from the south. It was sheer luck that she been sunning on the deck with the radio turned on in the tiny galley below. Through the open hatch she heard the Coast Guard weather station warning of fast moving squalls. She hadn't been that far from the harbor, but still she didn’t really relax until she was in sight of the marina. By that time the rain had started, and rising winds buffeted her sailboat from side to side. Most of the slips were full with boats seeking shelter from the threatening storm.

Josh Thomas was running hurriedly up and down the pier double-checking tie lines and adjusting bumpers between the ship's hulls and the dock. He waved her into one of the unoccupied moorings, shouting something she couldn't hear. She tossed him her bowline, and together they secured her own craft.

He lifted his yellow slicker above their heads in a makeshift tent, leaning close to be heard over the howling crescendo of the wind. "Glad you’re back! This one’s supposed to be a beaut! There’s gale wind warnings for small craft all up and down the coast. I sure wish the weather boys had let us know about this before I let all the boats out this morning! Most everybody is in now though."

Adrienne ran with him toward the protection of the office building, glancing automatically up the parking lot. Like every day, the Jaguar was there.

"Is Tanner back?"

He didn’t answer until they were inside out of the wind. "No," he replied, shaking the rain from his hair. "And I haven’t heard from her either. She probably put in at one of the other marinas."

Adrienne tried to ignore the sudden twist of fear. Tanner was fine – of course she was!

He saw the anxiety Adrienne couldn't hide, and added hastily, "I’ll put out a call."

Adrienne nodded, walking to the small window and peering out at the solid sheet of rain obscuring the boats moored not twenty yards away. She wondered if she could have kept a sailboat afloat in this weather. She waited as Josh went into the small adjoining room where he kept his short-wave radio. He returned shortly and placed the small set on the desk in the main office.

"Did you raise her?" Adrienne asked anxiously.

"Nope—but that doesn’t mean anything in this weather. She could be out there in the harbor, and she might not hear us."

Adrienne stayed at the window, trying to see through the rain. "I’m sure you’re right. How big is her boat, by the way?"

"Forty footer. Beautiful craft. She built it mostly herself—calls it Whitley’s Pride."

Adrienne smiled to herself at that. "It’s kind of big for one person to handle, isn’t it?"

"Yep. It would be for most people. But then Tanner’s not most people. She’s a good sailor; she’ll be all right." He noticed for the first time that Adrienne was shivering from the cold. He said quickly, "How about some coffee?"

Adrienne was about to refuse, and then decided it sounded like a good idea. It might be a long evening. She certainly had no desire to drive in the fierce storm, and she admitted to herself that if she made it home, she would just sit and worry about Tanner. She thought back to the first morning she had run across her on the beach, hung-over, and charming in spite of it. Tanner was reckless and wild and dangerous, especially the latter. Adrienne found it frightening and infuriating at the same time.

Lord – why can't she stay out of trouble? And why can't I stop worrying about her?

The winds continued with the same swirling force, rocking the sailboats at their moorings and pounding the windows of the small office. Josh sat at his cluttered desk and sipped his coffee, the short wave radio a scratchy backdrop to their silence. He did not question Adrienne’s staying, and she did not offer any explanation.

She would stay, had to stay, until Tanner came safely into port. She didn't question herself too closely as to why. She sighed with a sense of helpless frustration and looked over at Josh, who regarded her calmly. There was something about his solid presence that she found strangely reassuring. He seemed as indestructible as the rocky shoreline of his native coast.

"What was Tanner’s father like?" she asked suddenly.

He sat quietly for a moment, thinking about her question. It was hard to describe a man like Charles Whitley. Where did you begin? "He was big—about six four, with dark hair and eyes. I imagine the ladies found him handsome - movie-star looks. He was very generous with his money, but he expected a lot from people. He expected everyone to be as determined and certain as he was. He was often disappointed."

"Is Tanner really like him?"

"Spitting image."

Adrienne smiled. Tanner was movie-star handsome too. She quickly pushed that thought away. "How so?"

He smiled. "In a lot of ways. She’s got his fire – never does anything half way. Stubborn, a little bit of a risk-taker." He frowned, not used to putting his thoughts into words. "I think she’d be a lot less angry at everything if her father were still alive. I don’t think she’s ever quite forgiven him for going out by himself and getting drowned. She hasn't been right since the day he died."

Adrienne remembered the deep sorrow in Tanner's eyes. "Were they close?" she questioned softly.

Josh laughed. "That’s a mild word for it. He thought the sun rose and set on that girl. He had her down here on the boats before she could walk. She could sail better than most men by the time she was ten. Mrs. Whitley would go out with them for little cruises, you know, but most of the time it was just the two of them. The day he died Tanner wasn't with him. It was late in the season, and she was getting ready to go back to school. One of those fancy places girls go to in Boston. It was a bad looking day from the start, but he insisted. When he didn’t come in by dark, Tanner came searching for him. I almost had to tie her down to keep her from going out in the launch to look for him. She wouldn’t go home, just sat here listening to the Coast Guard station. They never did find the boat. A storm had come up in the late afternoon, and he must have gotten caught pretty far out. It’s hard to figure, with him being so experienced. Guess he must have been careless. Tanner kept insisting that if he had waited for her it never would have happened." He sighed and shrugged his shoulders. "She got pretty wild after he died. She was only a teenager, but she refused to go back to school. Said she didn’t want to leave Whitley Point. She finished high school on the mainland with all the island kids. She went away to college because her mother insisted, but it didn’t last too long. She got into some kind of trouble. Never has seemed to be able to settle down."

Adrienne leaned against the window frame, listening to him talk in his slow drawl, her mind conjuring up images of what Tanner must have been like as a teenager. God, she must have been so unhappy!

They were both startled as the radio crackled to life. "Whitley Harbor—this is THW four four hundred—come in Whitley Harbor."

Josh jumped for the receiver. "Go ahead THW—this is Whitley Harbor—over."

They waited tensely while static filled the air. He flipped the knob on the set impatiently several times and then spoke again into the microphone. "Whitley Harbor calling THW four four hundred, come in please."

The set crackled again, and then Adrienne heard Tanner’s voice. "I’m …in .. one half miles...lost … sail. … Taking on..water..." Her voice faded out, to be replaced by the same monotonous static.

"Damn!" Josh swore. "I’ll call the Coast Guard and give them her range. This harbor is hard enough to maneuver in the best of times. If she's got one sail down, even with the engines it's gonna be near impossible."

Adrienne watched him while he made the calls, her fear escalating. Tanner had come this far, surely she could navigate into the harbor. But with one sail down and in this wind?

"Mr. Thomas," she asked quietly, "do you have something alcoholic?"

"How about whiskey?"

"Sounds lovely."

The radio sounded the harbor’s call letters, and the Coast Guard came through with a message. "Whitley Harbor, we have a small craft taking water rapidly, due east of Whitley Island, range one mile. Rescue procedures under way. Will advise, over."

Josh acknowledged their message and stared glumly at Adrienne. He poured them both a stiff drink.

Adrienne swirled the little blocks of ice aimlessly in the dark amber liquid as she continued to watch the harbor. She thought about Tanner, and her father's tragic death, and felt for the first time that she understood a little of what hidden sorrows drove her. She could not have explained what it was about the troubled younger woman that called to her so deeply, but she was having a hard time denying it.

She was so lost in reflection that she didn’t appreciate the dim but persistent flickering across the water for some moments. Finally she realized that the steady glow was from the lights on a craft.

"Josh!" she shouted, "there are lights out there!"

"Where?" he cried, crowding next to her at the tiny window. He rubbed at the condensation with his large callused hand. "Where?"

"There, off to the left."

"That must be her!" he shouted. "She’s dead center in the middle of the channel. She handles that boat like a lover, she does!" He saw Adrienne flush and added hastily, "Beg your pardon, ma’am. Just an expression."

"I’m sure you’re right, Mr. Thomas," Adrienne responded quietly. "I’m sure she does."

Whitley's Pride came into view finally, maneuvering sluggishly with just the mainsail up, and that badly tattered from the beating it had taken in the fierce winds. As the boat approached the pier, both Josh and Adrienne ran out, mindless of the steady downpour that drenched them instantly. Tanner was clinging to the wheel, her clothes plastered to her, looking exhausted and ready to collapse.

Josh leaned out over the water with a boat hook and snagged the towlines, guiding the boat up to the pier. As soon as it glided in close enough, Adrienne climbed aboard and rushed to the cockpit. Tanner had tied herself to the wheel with a length of nylon rope to avoid being washed overboard in the gale. She was dazed, gasping for breath, and sagging within the confines of the makeshift restraints. Adrienne bent to untie the ropes that tethered Tanner’s body to the craft.

"Are you hurt?" she cried anxiously.

Tanner shrugged, her expression blank. She tried to speak, but her strength finally deserted her. Released from her supports, she slumped and would have fallen if Adrienne hadn’t made a quick grab for her.

Adrienne eased Tanner down beside her on the deck and tried to shelter her from the wind and icy rain. She slipped an arm around Tanner’s shoulders and pulled her close against her own body. Tanner shivered uncontrollably. Adrienne pushed the wet hair off Tanner’s face, aware for the first time how cold Tanner’s skin seemed under her fingers. Of course! She had been exposed on the deck for hours in the freezing rain in only a light shirt and jeans. She was hypothermic, dangerously cold —Adrienne had seen enough severe exposure cases in the Navy to recognize it.

"Josh," she shouted, "never mind the boat! We have to get her inside, where it's warm. Can you help me carry her?"

He was beside her in a moment, and between them they half-dragged, half-carried Tanner to the shelter of the marina.

"There’s a little room in the back where I keep a cot and a kerosene heater for the winter," Josh said, leading the way. They stretched Tanner out on the faded green wool blanket. She muttered in protest and tried ineffectually to push them away.

"Let me sleep," she demanded weakly.

"Light the stove, and bring the rest of the coffee – and the whiskey," Adrienne said tersely, ignoring Tanner's plea. She was already busy pulling off Tanner’s deck shoes. She reached for another blanket from the foot of the cot and threw it over Tanner's shivering form. Lifting enough of the cover to maneuver, Adrienne stripped the wet jeans off Tanner's legs, noting absently that that was all she had been wearing. The shirt proved to be more of a problem. The material clung insistently to Tanner’s body, and Adrienne had to struggle to free Tanner’s muscular arms. When she finally succeeded, she actually looked at Tanner for the first time.

Tanner's eyes were closed now, and she looked terribly vulnerable in her nakedness. Adrienne drew in her breath sharply, unprepared for what she saw as Tanner's body came into sharp focus. Her breasts were full and firm, falling in gentle curves toward her sides. The nipples were a deep honey gold. She was well-muscled, tanned and toned.

Adrienne could sense her strength, and remembered the tenderness in her touch. Her eyes traveled down the flat planes of Tanner’s stomach to the slight swell of her hips hidden by the coarse material of the blanket. Adrienne wasn't thinking at all, but stood mesmerized for a brief moment by the simple beauty before her. She was jolted abruptly from her reverie by a soft cough and the sound of movement behind her.

She drew the blanket up to cover Tanner’s nakedness and turned to face Josh Thomas. She looked him directly in the eyes, and he returned her gaze evenly.

"Here’s that whiskey, and I'll have coffee in a minute. Should I try to get an ambulance out here? It’ll be hard on a night like this."

"Call them and see," Adrienne replied distractedly, her concern for Tanner paramount now. "I'll work on getting her warmed up. Thank god she’s young and healthy."

She cradled Tanner’s head in her lap and brought the glass of whiskey to her lips. Tanner tried to pull away, but Adrienne managed to get a few drops past her pale lips. Tanner sputtered and coughed, protesting feebly, but Adrienne’s grip was firm. Just wake up enough to drink some coffee!

Josh came in with a mug of coffee. He stood patiently holding it while Adrienne tried to arouse Tanner enough to drink it. Tanner continued to shiver, her face ghostly white, a faint tinge of blue to her lips and fingers. "She's pretty well–frozen," Josh said worriedly. "The nearest emergency service is on the mainland, and I haven't been able to rouse 'em yet."

Adrienne laid Tanner's head down softly, and kicked off her own shoes. She tossed the light windbreaker she had been wearing aside and lifted the blanket. Settling on the cot with her back propped against the wall, she pulled Tanner into her arms. "Put the coffee beside me," she directed. With her arms encircling Tanner's shoulders, she pressed the length of her body against every part of Tanner's she could reach. Instinctively, Tanner curled around her, pressing one leg between Adrienne's, burrowing her face between Adrienne's breasts.

Josh moved the small kerosene heater closer, then retreated to the doorway. He wasn't sure why, but it felt like he should leave them alone. "I'll be in the next room – if I hear from the EMTs, I'll let you know. Call me if you need anything."

Adrienne didn't answer. She rested her chin against the top of Tanner's head, rocking her gently, willing her to wake up. She hadn't touched another person intimately in almost a year, and hadn't really expected to again. Odd – how it should have felt strange, but it didn't. Tanner fit naturally into the curves of her body, as if she had been lying with her for years.

After a while, Tanner began to stir restlessly, mumbling, opening her eyes to peer at Adrienne in confusion. Adrienne immediately began offering her sips of the coffee, hoping to both warm her and stimulate blood flow with the caffeine.

"Come on," Adrienne insisted, "just a little more. That’s it." She coaxed and pleaded and ordered Tanner to accept the hot liquid, murmuring encouragement to her as she stroked Tanner’s damp face. Finally, Tanner grasped her arm weakly and pushed at the hand that held the cup.

"Please," Tanner gasped, "give me a minute. Josh's coffee might kill me before the cold does."

Adrienne laughed and hugged Tanner tightly. "Are you really awake?" Adrienne whispered after a few moments of watching Tanner’s breathing becoming more regular and the color return to her face.

Tanner opened her eyes, finally able to focus, and regarded Adrienne solemnly. "I am—I think. Or this could just be a very nice dream."

Adrienne couldn't look away from those dark, captivating eyes. For a minute there, it had feel like a dream. She hadn't been alone.

Suddenly, a visceral memory of Tanner's lips on her own churned through her belly. She remembered the heat, and the tender almost shy stroke of Tanner's tongue over her own. A rush of arousal, completely unexpected, pulsed through her. She hadn't meant this to happen - hadn't wanted it to happen. She had only meant to help heal her.

Adrienne shifted abruptly on the narrow cot, slipping out from behind Tanner's nude body. She sat on the edge of the cot, staring at the floor, forcing her breathing to quiet. When she was certain her voice was steady, she replied, "It’s not a dream, something more like a nightmare. You had a pretty close call today, but I’m sure you’ll be fine after a couple of days’ rest. When you’re feeling a little better, I’ll drive you home."

"Can’t we just stay here?" Tanner struggled to keep her eyes open and sighed, pressing close against Adrienne's back. It felt so good when you held me. So safe.

"No, we can’t. You need a hot shower and a good night’s sleep. Neither of which you can get here." Adrienne's fear and confusion were being replaced by anger. Goddamn her for being so careless! And Goddamn me for caring!!

Adrienne stood, breaking the contact that was rapidly becoming uncomfortable. "I'll bring my car down. It won't help for you to get soaked again. Can you get dressed?"

Tanner nodded, too exhausted to protest. She struggled into the dry shirt and pants Josh offered her from his locker, and obediently followed Adrienne to her car. She slept on the short ride home, and when Adrienne pulled up in front of Whitley Manor, she had to shake Tanner to awaken her. "Tanner, wake up. You’re home now—it’s time to leave."

Tanner stirred slowly and gazed at Adrienne, a mixture of fatigue and need in her face. "Will you stay with me?" she asked softly. "Please."

Adrienne shook her head. "No. But I’ll call you tomorrow, okay?" She assured herself that was just a simple kindness. Anyone would do the same.

Tanner nodded and got out of the car without further protest. Adrienne watched her as Tanner made her way slowly around the side of the house to the path leading down to her bungalow. She hated to see her go, and didn't want to think what that meant. She only knew she couldn't get any closer to the lonely young woman and her secret pain. It was better to keep things uncomplicated, for both their sakes.

Continue to Part 4

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